Fort Worth City Council backs Police Chief Halstead

Posted on 12 Sep 2014 at 8:05am

The move comes after a local police association calls for Halstead’s  resignation

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James Russell  |  Staff Writer

Members of the Fort Worth City Council this week reaffirmed their support for Police Chief Jeff Halstead despite calls for his resignation from one local police officers’ association. The move came during the council’s executive session on Tuesday, Sept. 9.

City officials also announced Tuesday that they are enacting an action plan to guarantee diversity and fairness within the department’s ranks.

The Black Law Enforcement Officers’ Association recently called for Halstead’s resignation after an independent review conducted by Coleman and Associates detailed incidents of harassment and hostility against black officers within the police department. The review, released in August, was prompted by three separate complaints filed in 2013 alleging racial discrimination and harassment within the department’s ranks.

The 3-E Action Plan, guaranteeing “equity and equality for everyone” is the result of suggested changes in department policy.

Mayor Betsy Price, City Manager David Cooke and Halstead discussed the plan at a press conference. It includes efforts toward recruiting a more diverse workforce, ongoing outreach to minority communities and six annual meetings with both the African-American and Hispanic officers’ associations.

It also requires all employees go through multicultural training.

Following the report’s release, Cooke said the “department will see in our actions that diversity is valued; that any disparate treatment not related to merit will not be tolerated; and that any incidents of a hostile work environment will be handled quickly and appropriately.”

His office will “be directly involved in monitoring [the plan’s] progress.”

Dallas Voice’s calls seeking comments from Black Law Enforcement Officers’ Association President Sergeant Roy Hudson and the Fort Worth Latino Peace Officers Association were not returned as of press time.

It is not the first time Halstead has come under scrutiny from Fort Worth communities.

In 2009, less than a year into his tenure, seven Fort Worth police officers and two agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided Fort Worth’s Rainbow Lounge, a then-newly-opened gay bar. One patron, Chad Gibson, suffered serious head injuries during the raid.

Initially Halstead defended his officers, saying at the time to WFAA, when “you’re touched and advanced in certain ways by people inside the bar; that’s offensive. I’m happy with the restraint used when they were contacted like that.”

Following an outcry from the community and numerous elected officials, Halstead backtracked on the statement and worked with what became Fairness Fort Worth to implement new measures, including sensitivity training and appointing the department’s first LGBT liaison, Officer Sara Straten. (Cpl. Tracey Knight is FWPD’s current LGBT liaison officer.)

Then in 2011, a group of community members with the Black, Brown & Tan Caucus and the Community Leaders Coalition called for his resignation after a Tarrant County grand jury did not indict a white police officer who shot and killed Charal Thomas, a black man.

Fairness Fort Worth President David Henderson said this week the situation with the LGBT community is different now.

“While we aren’t privy to details on the current dilemma, our history with Chief Halstead from the Rainbow Lounge Raid is based largely on a relationship that saw him tangibly transform from crisis proxy to trusted partner,” Henderson said.

He added, “Crucial to our resolution was that Halstead recognized the…problem, publicly owned up to his responsibility and swiftly enacted changes that actively invited us into the process.”

The Rev. Carol Ann West, whose church, Celebration Community Church, hosts Chief Halstead on a monthly basis to speak with members of the LGBT community, has no doubts about Halstead keeping his word.

“He is a man of integrity who has done a tremendous amount of work with all groups in Fort Worth,” she said. “He’s made tremendous strides between the LGBT community and City Hall.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 12, 2014.

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